This work is composed of four studies: “La Consulta de la Junta Central al País sobre Cortes” by María Isabel Arriazu; “Fray Francisco Alvarado y sus Cartas críticas” by María Cristina Diz-Lois; “Bartolomé José Gallardo y el Diccionario crítico burlesco” by Cristina Torra; and “Las Fuentes de la Constitución de Cádiz” by Warren M. Diem. These studies are heavily slanted toward the traditionalist viewpoint on the legitimacy of the Cortes of Cádiz and its actions. They show the continuing strong influence of Rafael de Vélez and his Apología del altar y del trono . . . (1818), in which he denounced the Cortes’ actions as illegitimate and foreign to Spanish tradition.
María Isabel Arriazu has studied the responses received by the Junta Central to its questionnaire seeking to sound out diverse persons, corporate bodies, and organizations on the composition, organization, powers, etc. of the special Cortes. She attempts to indicate how many responses were made, who responded, who received them, what happened to them, and was done with them. Her work is useful in that it details the current location of those still available.
María Cristina Diz-Lois traces the popularity of the traditionalist polemicist Francisco Alvarado and his Cartas críticas as revealed in the use and evaluation of his works by contemporary and later historians. She presents a detailed account of the original manuscripts, the editing of them, their motives and sources, and their editions. She intimates that Alvarado’s letters had a strong influence on some deputies like Francisco Gómez Fernández, Antonio Freire Castrillón, and Francisco de Sales Rodríguez de la Bárcena, to whom some were addressed and who promoted their dissemination Cristina Torra’s study of Bartolomé José Gallardo and his Diccionario crítico burlesco is an expanded reaffirmation of Rafael Vélez’ thesis about the effect of Gallardo’s 1812 work on what happened at Cádiz, Vélez regards it as another demonstration of how the “reformers” in the Cortes supported those authors who attacked religion in order to influence public opinion against it. In the early stages of the episode, Gallardo, a liberal polemicist and the librarian of the Cortes, was imprisoned and suspended from his position, but later he won the support of many of the deputies, was freed, and returned to his position. A few American deputies, including the Peruvian, José Mejía Lequerica (not Mexican, as on p. 239), participated in this affair, which consumed many hours of debate in the Cortes.
Warren M. Diem compares the Constitution of Cádiz, article by article, not only with the 1791 French Constitution (as Vélez did) but also with those of 1793 and 1795 and with that of Bayonne (1808). He concludes that the deputies at Cádiz worked with and borrowed from all four—not just from the 1791, as Vélez had asserted. Like other traditionalists Diem seems to hold the belief that because the Constitution of Cádiz resembles the French constitutions it cannot have evolved in any way from Spanish tradition.
These four studies were presented under the direction of Professor Federico Suárez for the degree of licentiate at the University of Navarre. Each is documented, but the book is devoid of both indexes and bibliography. Contrary to the implication of the title, these studies have only a peripheral relation to the Cortes and only one, the third, contains any reference to American participation in that body. Except for the bibliographical data which are dispersed and difficult of access, little new information for the scholar is to be found here.